A Linux Mint, that is! Ordinarily, I would have a "non-geek disclaimer" for a post like this, but this time, I invite my non-geek readers (if I actually have any) to read on.
My premise is simple. Choice is a good thing. For the consumer, and for the economy as a whole. So why do 90% of all computers run Windows? Is that choice? Not really. And I'm not a Microsoft-hater. Seriously, I'm not. Bill Gates, in my opinion, is a genius and an innovator. But, his company took some wrong turns with their company values. In any case, 20 years of an operating system monopoly has given us Windows Vista as the high water-mark of Microsoft software development. Here's what the editor of PC Magazine (a noted Windows fanatic) recently said about Vista:
"I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I won't bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain't cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can't get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux."
The real tragedy here is that few people know that there are REAL alternatives out there today. Yes, Mac is one of them. If you want to pay 30% more for the same hardware and join a cult, then, sure let's put Mac on the table as a choice. Um, let's look at some others before I start another rant. How about linux? I think I heard some groans from the audience. Yes, linux has been a geek's wet dream for the last eight years. But I swear to you that it has matured. Yes, there are 1001 different flavors, but like every other competitive environment, the cream has risen to the top. Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, and Suse are polished, easy to install, and give you tons of free software. They're even pre-installing Ubuntu on Dells! (I swear pigs are flying somewhere.)
After a few weeks of cursing Vista on my shiny new Acer desktop, I decided to give Ubuntu a whirl. Specifically, a Ubuntu offshoot (there are several) that gives the desktop some beautification, and adds some conveniences. It's called Linux Mint, and it's simply the best out-of-the-box linux experience I've ever had. I spent the better part of 8 hours getting Windows "secured" and customized. And all the software I had was Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. (Yes, the fruity version that wants to hog all the resources.) I had Mint installed in 20 minutes with more software than I knew what to do with. All my hardware worked, and as an added bonus, I got some wicked eye-candy that seriously put Vista's Aero to shame. Take a peek at my desktop:
Yes, that's a transparent window on the right.
Yes, my desktop is on a 3D cube that I can rotate.
Yes, that's my web browser doing a weird peel-away effect so I can see the window below it.
Did I mention that Mint was free while Windows Vista retails for $199? And you can run it as a LiveCD (without installing it) first, so you can see all the cool stuff firsthand with zero risk. No viruses, no spyware, no adware, no problems! Are you game? I'm thinking of having my wife try it. That will be the true test...